COA affirms cutting off mother’s communication with daughter

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The court record is replete with evidence supporting a juvenile court’s decision that a teenage girl would be better off if communication and visits with her mother were terminated, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Wednesday. The girl, in foster care, often had detrimental visits with her mother.

J.W. appealed the order handed down in February 2014 that she was not to have any visits or phone contact with her daughter, E.W. The girl was removed from her mother’s care at age 10 and bounced back and forth between placement in foster care, a facility or her mother’s care for more than a year. She was ultimately removed after J.W. failed to adequately supervise her and E.W. was raped.

Supervised visits often included inappropriate sexual comments and behaviors from the mother. E.W. already had a sexual history at age 10, which was part of the reason she was found to be a child in need of services. J.W. has refused to participate in court-ordered services to improve her parenting skills and mental health.

She often undermined E.W.’s foster parents and the girl’s therapist says that her mother’s presence in her life is a stressor and the visits negatively affect her. The girl’s permanency plan was changed to “another planned permanent living arrangement” in September 2013 and six months later, the cut court off J.W.’s contact with the girl.

The juvenile court ultimately concluded that cessation of the visits would be in E.W.’s best interest, and the COA agreed, pointing to the court record. J.W. often behaved inappropriately, inserted herself between the girl and her foster parents, and E.W. suffered multiple traumas while in her mother’s care.

The COA also noted that although it appears that it would not have jurisdiction because the order is not a final judgment while the CHINS case remains open, that is not the case. Changing her permanency plan from reunification to APPLA, her CHINS case will remain open until she turns 18 in 2016. By ordering that all contact between the two cease, the trial court is effectively ending that relationship until E.W. is a legal adult. Whether or not this is technically a final judgment, the order certainly operates as one, Sharpnack wrote, allowing the COA to consider the mother’s appeal in In the Matter of: E.W. (Minor Child), Child in Need of Services, J.W. (Mother) v. The Indiana Department of Child Services, 40A04-1407-JC-349.  

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